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Author Archives: Michael Thomas

Lenovo welcomes the ThinkStation P320

ThinkStation P320

Lenovo has used Develop3D Live to announce its new VR-ready system, the ThinkStation P320.

“Lenovo Makes Professional Virtual Reality More Accessible With the ThinkStation P320 at Develop3D Live”

ThinkStation P320 Family

Are you ready for Virtual Reality (VR)? The ThinkStation 320 is already Pro VR certified making it ready to integrate VR hardware. This certification gives ThinkStation P320 users an opportunity to add VR more easily into their workflow without requiring an initial high-end hardware and software investment.

Power of a workstation – Price of a desktop

The ThinkStation 320 is available as both full-size towers and small form factors (SFF). It ships with Intel’s newest Xeon processors (high-performing) and super fast Core i7 processors. Depending on the configuration you can get speeds up to 4.5GHz with Turbo Boost.

Both forms support the latest NVIDIA Quadro graphic cards including dual Quadro P1000 GPUs. With the full-size tower go-all-in with VR with the NVIDIA Quadro P4000.

“the Thinkstation P320 is capable of delivering a refreshing VR experience to mechanical and design engineers alike.”

Why would you want a ThinkStation P320?

  • It is FAST AND RELIABLE… the fastest Intel processors with “blazing” speeds up to 4.2GHz and 4.5Ghz with Turbo Boost
  • Make VIRTUAL A REALITY… utilizing the latest in NVIDIA “professional” graphics
  • EXCEPTIONAL VALUE… affordable for any organization
  • ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY... Lenovo is the ONLY manufacturer certified with GreenGuard

Key Specs:

  • Available as both a tower (25L) and small form factor (12L)
  • 7th Generation Intel Core i7 or Intel Xeon E3-1200 v6 processors, up to 4.5GHz in Turbo Boost
  • NVIDIA Quadro graphics: Up to P4000, with VR Ready certification, available on the tower and up to 2 x P1000 available on the small form factor
  • Up to 64GB 2400MHz ECC UDIMM DDR4 memory
  • Up to 4 storage devices on the tower and 3 for the small form factor, supporting up to 16TB and 8TB, respectively

The ThinkStation 320 will be available in April.

Doing It’s Part – Inventor Part Modeling 2018

Part Modeling 2018

Autodesk Inventor 2018 is here (read more here) and is chalk full of updates, enhancements, tweaks, and other goodies. Part Modeling 2018 got the biggest piece of the update pie, with some of the most significant updates within this year’s Inventor release

3D Annotation

The concept of documenting and detailing the 3D model is not a new concept. The idea is to forgo 2D drawings and replace them with the 3D model containing all the dimensions and annotations required to manufacture the component.

In the 2012-2013 time period, Autodesk toyed with the idea with the 3DA add-in for Inventor (was available on Autodesk Labs). Autodesk was excited but found a collective “meh” from the intended audience based on the feature set presented to them. No one really jumped up and down with excitement, Autodesk didn’t get the warm and fuzzies, and development was put on hold…. drum roll… until now!

Inventor 2018 contains Model Based Definition workflows to generate 3D Annotations within the Part Modeling 2018 environment.

We’ll be covering this in a “deep-dive” coming up later this month.

Sheet Metal

What’s the very first thing just about everybody said when Autodesk added multi-body sheet metal support? Can I have different styles and thicknesses per body?

The answer before 2018 was NO. Well, that is no longer the case as Inventor 2018 now supports multiple thicknesses and styles.

Inventor 2018 Sheet Metal Rule

The unique style is set with the Face, Contour Flange, Lofted Flange, and/or Contour Roll. Within these dialogs, disable Follow Defaults and select the desired rule.

You can also right-click a solid body within the browser and select the desired Sheet Metal Rule.


Extrude Enhancements

The new Distance from Face extents option within Part Modeling 2018 is phenomenal when you want to use one central sketch to build multiple features at different starting locations.

Inventor 2018 Extrude Distance-From-Face

With this new feature, you specify the starting face or workplane and the desired distance.


Hole Enhancements

With Simple Holes use the new symmetric option to extrude the hole in two directions. The Hole dialog termination buttons now match the Extrude dialog, providing consistency and easier identification.

Inventor 2018 Hole Termination Updates

Spotface holes support zero bore depths, which is useful for termination faces on a body.

Inventor 2018 Hole Updates

Utilize the new Extend Start feature to extend the hole to the first place of intersection… aka remove the slivers or pieces of geometry not cleaned properly by the hole.


Partial Chamfers

With the new Partial option generate Chamfers that bevel only part of an edge. Using the Partial settings specify the chamfer based on a combination of the starting point, ending point, and chamfer distance. The Driven Dimension Type sets the value being driven by what you specify for the other two options.

Inventor 2018 Partial Chamfer


Other Updates

Within the Parameters dialog, the new Consumed by column shows the features using the parameter.

Inventor-2018 Parameters Consumed By

Trim Surface contains an Apply button, making it so you can continue to trim surfaces without exiting the command.

Inventor 2018 Trim Surface Apply




Feature Image by Miguel Salgado

Have You Seen What’s New In Inventor 2018?

Inventor 2018

“Inventor 2018 is built for the continually evolving needs of the modern design and engineering professional.”

Evolution of the Aardvark

Evolution of the Aardvark by T. Michael Keesey

Autodesk continues the trend started with Inventor 2017, which is improving and enhancing existing functionality.

I will admit to initially being a bit disappointed when I read the “what’s new” and the limited new features. It’s kind of like getting socks Christmas morning, but then discovering they are sweat wicking, liquid cooled, infrared heated, and Bluetooth enabled so that they can adjust the temperature based on the weather forecast…. disappointment turns quickly into excitement!

After using this version for a while, I have really come to love many of the enhancements and tweaks. The browser enhancements alone are worth the update as is the new 3D annotation workflow.

Inventor 2018 = 2017 + R2 + R3 + R4

For those moving to 2018 from a version older than 2017, start by reviewing our posts detailing the new features in Inventor 2017 as well as the mid-year subscription R2 and R3 releases.

Autodesk Inventor 2017 What’s New Summary

Autodesk Inventor 2017 R2

How Inventor 2017 Rocks with R3!

The List of Inventor 2018

Here’s a quick rundown of the new and improved areas within Inventor 2018.


General Enhancements

  • Productivity and Performance Enhancements
  • Browser Enhancements
  • Measure Enhancements
  • Sorting Enhancements
  • General Enhancements


  • Model-Based Definition
  • Sheet Metal Updates
  • Extrude Enhancements
  • Hole Enhancements
  • Chamfer Enhancements


  • Assembly Open Enhancements
  • Shrinkwrap and BIM Content Enhancements


  • Drawing Open Enhancements
  • Drawing support for Mesh Objects
  • Text Annotation Enhancement
  • Export to PDF Drawing Enhancement


  • AnyCAD and Translator Enhancements
  • DWG Underlay Enhancements


  • AnyCAD for Inventor
  • Presentation Enhancements

Inventor 2018 Performance Improvements

Inventor 2018 improves the performance across the board. This includes Zooming in & out using the minimum frame rate. It is a minor enhancement but has a big payoff in the terms of performance.

Assembly performance got some loving in the form of reduced open times – specifically with a nested file structure – and faster selection and highlighting (express and full mode).

For easier access to Express mode (assemblies), it is now selectable directly within the Open dialog. The Open Assembly dialog is rearranged for easier access to features and information.



For drawings, enjoy these performance improvements:

  • Faster drawing view hidden line computation
  • Quicker Move, Pan, and Rotate Views
  • Faster drawing view creation, preview, edit view, and change view rep
  • Improvements to 2D graphic rendering for sketches, drawing views, and DWG Underlays
  • Faster component selection in drawings
  • Faster raster view rendering
  • With deferred drawings, Defer Updates is now available within the right-click context menu
  • Added View Preview (glasses) to the View dialog (bounding box vs. full preview)

Inventor 2018 introduces a view update delay so that as you edit the view scale the view doesn’t start to update with each number entered.

If Inventor cannot generate the full drawing preview within 3-seconds a progress bar now displays. By clicking Cancel, the preview option is disabled and a bounding box preview is shown instead.

The Open Drawing dialog now provides a drop-down for easier access to Defer Update. Similar to the Assembly Open dialog, this dialog is rearranged for easier and more consistant access to the tools and information.

Inventor 2018 Drawing Open Dialog

Mini-toolbars no longer show by default for Extrude, Revolve, Fillet, Shell, Face Draft, Chamfer, and Joint. To re-enable (if you use them), use the Mini-toolbar option within the User Interface panel on the View tab of the ribbon.

Inventor 2018 Mini Toolbars


CATIA R6 – V5-6R2016 is now available for import.

Inventor 2017 R4 introduces the ability to place newer versions of Inventor part and assembly files. This means, for example, that you can reference Inventor 2018 files within Inventor 2017 via AnyCAD. This also means you will be able to reference Inventor 2019 data within Inventor 2018.

DWG Underlays are now placeable directly into an assembly, without going into a part file first. The right-click menu on the DWG Underlay within the assembly browser now matches the features to the menu within a part. This includes Delete, Translate, Redefine, Visibility, and Layer Visibility.

Right-clicking on a DWG Underlay within the browser (part or assembly) now includes an Open in AutoCAD option to open the Underlay directly within AutoCAD.

DWG Underlay sketch geometry now automatically projects, similar to how model edges and other features do when creating a sketch.

Joints now align correctly to the Underlay geometry, which didn’t always occur within Inventor 2017.


The Simplify tab has been retired and merged into the Simplification panel on the Assembly tab.

Inventor 2018 Simplification Panel

The Shrinkwrap tools are enhanced with more control, an improved user interface, and an improved workflow. The workflow is identical whether starting with Shrinkwrap from the Simplification panel or by creating a new shrinkwrapped Level of Detail.

Inventor 2018 Shrinkwrap Dialog Tabs

The Shrinkwrap dialog now contains three tabs:

  • Components for document type information like the representations and the tools for removing components. This includes the toggle to switch to viewing the included or excluded components.
  • Use Features tab to remove or preserve features
  • The Create tab contains the file related information, the style, and other settings

Other Goodies

Presentations (IPN) now support surfaces. This includes window selection, applies tweaks to surface bodies, and using surfaces to orient the tweak triad.

Drawings views now support Mesh objects.

Inventor 2018 Mesh Drawing Views

You can now add a border to text using the Text Border option.

Inventor 2018 Text Border

Based on an Ideastation submission, PDF Drawing export settings are now persistent across sessions. This includes the sheet range and the new option Display Published File in Viewer.

Inventor 2018 PDF Options

Part Modeling Updates and Model Based Definition

The enhancements to part modeling are covered in detail in these posts:

Inventor 2018 Part Modeling Enhancements

Model Based Definition Now within Inventor (Coming Soon!)

In Review

Whew! As you can see, even though Inventor is lacking new features, the list of enhancements, updates, and tweaks within Inventor 2018 is quite extensive. The highlights for me is easily the browser enhancements, Model-Based Definition, the updates to the Part Modeling tools, and the performance improvements. I’m sure many will love the changes to DWG Underlays and the ability to place them straight into an assembly.

All I can say is its time to dive in and get going!


Feature Image by Miguel Salgado from Unsplash

The New and Improved AutoCAD 2018 Is Here!

What’s New in AutoCAD 2018?

AutoCAD 2018 is here! That’s right, it is that time of year again… time for another round of Autodesk upgrades. It’s like buying a new car, gotta love that new car smell!

AutoCAD 2018

AutoCAD is a bit light on the new features this year. I consider it almost 2017.5, as the majority of “what’s new” is extending the features introduced with 2017. Some nice-to-haves especially the performance improvements.

Technology Updates

Added with the 2017.1.1 update (patch), AutoCAD 2018 continues with the support for higher display resolutions and pixel densities, including those on 4K displays.

2018 improves the performance of saving and 3D navigation. You’ll notice the save improvements in drawings with annotative scaling blocks, Mtext with columns, and multiline attributes. With the 3D navigation, Autodesk is claiming “significant” improvements with zoom, pan, and 3D orbit. You should no large experience visual degradation as you manipulate the view.

You can now disable Smooth Line Display, without disabling High-Quality Geometry.

AutoCAD 2018 Smooth Line Graphics Performance

To round out the technology updates:

  • the Bing map service is now at v8.0
  • iDrop is removed due to potential security risks

AutoCAD 2018 User Interaction

All dialogs related to file navigation (open, new, attach, etc) now remember the column sort order.

AutoCAD 2018 File Operation Dialog

The Drafting Settings dialog is now resizable.

AutoCAD 2018 Drafting Settings Resized

The Layer Control (aka Layer dropdown) is now an option within the Quick Access Toolbar menu… and it’s about time! If you don’t currently have the Layer Control added to your Quick Access Toolbar drop everything you are doing right now and get-er-done.

AutoCAD 2018 QAT Layer Control

The System Variable Monitor icon within the Status Bar now presents a menu when right-clicked. This provides access to commonly used features without needing to access the dialog.

AutoCAD 2018 System Monitor Icon Menu

When you begin a rectangular selection it no longer terminates as you pan or zoom to another part of the drawing (off screen)… BOOM!


2018 improves the linetype gap behaviour to include support for DGN linetypes, polylines with width, and splines. This is the feature that allows for the selection of an object by picking on the gaps in the linetype.

AutoCAD 2018 Linetype Gap Selection


AutoCAD 2018 External References

AutoCAD 2018 includes many tweaks to External References.

The default path type is now Relative (opposed to Full). Don’t like this? Use the new system variable REFPATHTYPE to set the default… 0 for No Path, 1 for Relative Path, and 2 for Full Path.

Until 2018, Relative wasn’t available until the drawing was saved. Now the External References palette displays the full path with an asterisk until the host drawing is initially saved.

AutoCAD prompts to update the relative paths when saving a drawing to a different location,

AutoCAD 2018 External References Relative-Paths-Prompt

The right-click menu within the External References palette includes two new options: Select New Path and Find and Replace.

AutoCAD 2018 External References Palette Menu

Using Select New Path is for browsing for a new location for not-found (“broken”) references. Find and Replace is a great addition making it easy to replace paths with new locations.

Open is now available even when the External Reference is unloaded.

Finally, renaming a reference anywhere and anyway updates the listing in the External References palette automatically.


AutoCAD 2018 PDF Import

AutoCAD 2017 introduced PDF import, AutoCAD 2018 takes this to the next level adding support for SHX Text Recognition.

AutoCAD 2018 PDF Recognize Import Panel

Why is this is important? Acrobat PDF does not understand SHX fonts. This means the fonts translate as geometry. Now 2018 will recognize this geometry as text, based on the font type you specify.

AutoCAD 2018 PDF Text Recognition Settings

What else is new with PDF import?

  • PDF Import & Attach now show thumbnail previews
  • Issues with upside-down text is resolved
  • Improved PDF geometry scaling
  • Better Form data support

AutoCAD 2018 Text to MText

A long time Express tool, Convert to Mtext (TXT2MTXT) is bigger and better. What’s odd is that it has remained an Express tool. Driven by the new PDF import functionality, use the new workflow to import the PDF, recognize the Text, and convert to MText.

This includes selecting MText objects, in addition to text objects. This making it possible to merge Text and MText into a singular MText object.

A new Settings option on the commandline launches the Settings dialog.

AutoCAD 2018 Text to MText Settings

Character Codes (like %%d) now translate properly from Text into Mtext. AutoCAD 2018 infers the Justification (Top left, middle center, etc) and numbered/lettered lists for the new MText object.



photo credit: CarlosMDSilva Re-Censurados Audience 2 via photopin (license)

Lenovo Announces Three New Products

New Lenovo Workstations

Lenovo is at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 and is using the opportunity to announce three new Lenovo workstations (mobile)… the ThinkPad P51s, ThinkPad P51, and the ThinkPad P71.

ThinkPad P51s

“Engineered to deliver breakthrough levels of performance, reliability and long battery life… designed to meet customer demands for a powerful but portable machine “

The ThinkPad P51s features a new, “clean sheet” chassis. This unit is a slimmed down Ultrabook build, over a half-pound lighter than the previous generation. This the lightest and thinnest Thinkpad ever produced by Lenovo.

Dimensions (W x D x H) = (mm) 365.8 x 252.8 x 19.95 – 20.2 | (inche:s) 14.4 x 9.95 x 0.78 – 0.79 | Weight 4.3 lbs (1.95 kg) +

ThinkPad P51s Hero 05

Even with the low weight and slimmed down design, it provides a dual-battery solution for extended battery life. With the Power Bridge technology, you can hot-swap the rear battery.

Lenovo Thinkpad P51s Front

What’s in the box?

  • 7th generation Core i7 processors
  • NVIDIA Quadro M520M
  • 15.6″ 4K UHD IPS display (4k ultra high-resolution) or FHD IPS 250 nites (1920 x 1080)
  • DDR4 – 2133 SDRAM memory (up to 32GB)
  • 5400 rpm hard drive (up to 1TB) | NVMe PCle SSD (up to 1TB)
  • 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x HDMI, & 1 x USB-C (Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 technology)

ThinkPad P51

“Whether you’re designing a new building or working on the next supercar, the ThinkPad P51 will bring the power and portability you demand.”

The new ThinkPad P51 includes 4K IPS display with 100% color gamut and X-Rite Pantone color calibrator. These units are MIL-SPEC tested and offer a dual-fan cooling system to allow us to push these systems hard. The P51 offers 2400MHz DDR4 memory, the fastest memory available in a mobile workstation.

Lenovo Thinkpad P51 Hero

Dimensions (W x D x H) = (mm) : 377.4 x 252.3 x 24.5 – 25.9 | (inches) : 14.86″ x 9.93″ x 0.96″ – 1.02″ | Weight 5.6 lbs (2.5 kg)+

Lenovo Thinkpad P51 1

What’s in the box?

  • Intel Xeon E3-v6 Processors (for Mobile Workstations)
  • NVIDIA Quadro GPUs (up to M2200M)
  • 4K IPS display (with 100% color gamut) or FHD IPS 250 nits (1920 x 1080)
  • Integrated X-Rite Pantone color calibrator
  • 2400MHz DDR4 memory (up to 64GB)
  • Massive storage – up to 4TB total!
  • 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x USB-C (Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 technology)

ThinkPad P71

“Lenovo’s first VR Ready mobile workstation, featuring brand new NVIDIA Pascal-based Quadro GPUs and full Oculus and HTC certifications.”

Lenovo Thinkpad P71 2

Like the P51, the ThinkPad P71 Lenovo workstations are MIL-SPEC tested and offer a dual-fan cooling system. The P71 offers 2400MHz DDR4 memory, the fastest memory available for a mobile workstation. With support for up to four storage devices, this unit provides massive storage for a portable device.

Dimensions (W x D x H) = (mm) : 416 x 275.5 x 29.9 – 31.5 | (inches) : 16.4″ x 10.8″ x 1.17″ – 1.2″ | Weight 7.6 lbs (3.4 kg) +

Lenovo Thinkpad P71 Hero05

What’s in the box?

  • Intel Xeon E3-v6 Processors (for Mobile Workstations)
  • NVIDIA Quadro GPUs (up to P5000M)
  • 4K IPS display (with 100% color gamut) or FHD IPS 300 nits (1920 x 1080)
  • Integrated X-Rite Pantone color calibrator
  • 2400MHz DDR4 memory (up to 64GB)
  • Massive storage – up to 4TB total!
  • 4 x USB 3.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 2 x USB-C (Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 technology)
  • NVIDIA’s VR-ready certification

“Content creators working with demanding VR workflows require the most robust and reliable performance possible,” says Bob Pette, vice president, Professional Visualization, NVIDIA. “Lenovo’s VR Ready ThinkPad P71 mobile workstation with Quadro Pascal-based GPUs for mobile workstations provides the performance, features and memory required for creating the most compelling VR experiences anywhere.”


The Lenovo ThinkPad P51s will be available in March, starting at US$1,049. The ThinkPad P51 and P71 will be available in April, starting at US$1,399 and US$1,849, respectively.

To learn more about these new products, visit

Adding Sheet Views to the Sheet Set

Sheet Views

Now that we know how to work with the Sheet Set Manager and add Sheets we’re going to dive in and explore how adding Sheet Views is accomplished. This is a continuation of our series taking a deep dive into AutoCAD Sheet Sets. If you’d like to start at the beginning, take a look at the table of contents.

The high-level overview of adding views…

  1. Add the file locations to the drawings containing the views
  2. Drag-and-drop model space views onto your Sheets
  3. AutoCAD attaches the drawing as an XREF, generates a Viewport, and sets the scale

Location, Location, Location

First, you need a drawing open and it doesn’t matter what it is, or if you intend to keep it. Now, you can add the file locations to the drawings that contain the views. Using the Model Views tab, double-click on Add New Location. Browse to and select the folder containing the drawings.


Expand the drawing for the list of available model space views.


To remove a location, right-click on it. From the menu select Remove Location.

Drag-and-Drop to Add Views

To add the view to your drawing, drag-and-drop from the Sheet Set Manager onto the Paper Space Layout. AutoCAD generates a preview to aid in the positioning and scaling. To adjust the scale, right-click, and pick the desired scale. The preview updates so that you can position the view properly. Left click to place the Sheet Views.

Sheet Sets Sheet Views

As the view is placed a view callout is automatically placed. [We’ll dive into building these labels in a future post.]

Let the Magic Happen

As the view is placed, its drawing is attached as an external reference (xref) and inserted into model space. A viewport is created at the extents of the view and scaled according to the scale you’ve selected.

AutoCAD-Sheet-Set-Xref Manager

Once placed, the viewport created is a standard AutoCAD viewport. This means you can use standard features like grips, Properties, and the scale list to make adjustments.

AutoCAD Sheet Set Viewports


Modifying the Scale List

Use SCALELISTEDIT to make changes to the available scales. These scales are available both during View placement from the Sheet Set Manager as well as when modifying an existing Viewport. This is something to consider saving within your template.

AutoCAD Edit Drawing Scales

Building Model Views

Using the VIEW command, create Model Views of the portions of the drawing you want to add as views to your Sheets.

AutoCAD View Manager

Start by clicking New and use the New View / Shot Properties dialog to define the new view. Specify the name and optionally a category. Categories are advantageous to group like views. The View type should be set Still.

AutoCAD New Model Views

Many of the options are only valuable when capturing 3D Views. Since you are creating views for a Sheet Set, the only important settings are the Boundary and saving the layer snapshot. Always leave the UCS as World, Live Section to <None>, the Visual style to Current or 2D Wireframe, and the Background as Default.

The Boundary can be either the Current display, if you like how you have zoomed into the drawing, or Define Window to pick the boundary of the view.

Enable Save layer snapshot with view to capture the current state of the layers. This includes the ON / OFF state, Freeze / THAW, LOCK, and properties like the layer color. When restoring the view, AutoCAD also restores the saved layer state.

When you click OK the view is created and is listed within the Model Views list.

Lights, Camera, Action!


Feature Image “view” by Gabriel White

Creating New by Example Sheet Set

Creating New by Example Sheet Set Welcome to part 3 of our deep-dive into AutoCAD Sheet Sets. In the last part, we explored creating new Sheet Sets to manage existing drawings. This is an excellent option obviously when you have drawings created outside a sheet set, yet you still want the options to manage them.… Continue Reading

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